A Happier Holiday Season

A Happier Holiday Season

As we get closer to the holidays and winter break is almost here, how do you approach the holiday season?

Do you LOVE the time off work and look forward to this time of year with eager anticipation every year? A time of excitement where your home is filled with family traditions, close connections, fun and happy laughter as your family spends time together.

Or is this the time of year you DREAD the most?  You feel pressured and more stressed than normal and your days are full of raised voices, children bickering, no one listening, and emotions running high.

Really what I’m asking, is this is the time of year that brings out the worst in you rather than the best in you?

The truth is for many of us holiday stress is inevitable and comes with the season. Meltdowns, frustration, exhaustion, and feeling overwhelmed are the themes of the season, making us cranky and more emotionally reactive than we like.

I find when parents don’t have a solid plan for navigating through their own rising emotions as well as effective tools for helping with a child’s emotional and behavioral needs, the stress and overwhelm we feel takes over. In these moments we are so much more likely to give in to our annoyance and irritability and react to our children’s misbehavior with punishment.

This punishment leaves our kids feeling awful and us feeling guilty and remorseful long after the heated moment has passed.

So, in the moment when heightened emotions hit, regulating yourself and helping your child regulate their emotions and behavior requires having a solid plan with effective tools.

Here’s your plan - a sequence of five steps to consider as you intervene to support you and your child through the chaos of emotions and behaviors this holiday season.

First: Pause. Acknowledge the moment.  Acknowledge your stress and how you are feeling in this moment, and then acknowledge the thoughts you are thinking about your child and their behavior in this moment.

Second: Breathe. Take a few deep breaths and take a moment to take control of your thinking and your feelings. Reframe how you think about the tantrums and the behavior.

Third: Decide. In this sacred moment of your pausing and breathing you get to make a conscious decision with purpose and the intention of how you want to manage your parenting. You get to decide between connection (relating, coaching, guiding and teaching your kids) and punishment (yelling, threatening, shaming, forcing or blaming your kids).

Fourth: Regulate and Relate. Help your child regulate and calm their fight, flight or freeze responses. Your choosing to be calm and to foster connection is the first step in helping your child feel safe and loved so they can regulate and calm their emotional brain that is driving their explosive behaviors.

Forget time-out and let go of the urge to yell, threaten, blame, or shame your kids - all the options our brains (or habit) leads us to want to do when we are feeling defeated, dejected, and depreciated. Instead, spend time-in with your child. Connect with your child from a place of attunement and sensitivity. Sit with them, breathe with them, and calmly be there with them and for them. This will go a long way in helping your child feel self-assured and know you will be there with them as they walk through these hard times.

Lastly: Reason. Heading straight for the reasoning part of your child’s brain with an expectation of them calming down, cooperating, and learning will not work when your child is dysregulated and feeling disconnected from you. When you and your child are feeling calmer and your relationship feels connected only then is it time-to-talk. This is when we can support children in reflecting on their behavior, articulating what they were feeling, and problem-solving ways to do things differently. Now is when we can talk about the next time they get upset, or things don’t go their way, or the answer is NO. Here we can teach our kids more emotionally healthy responses they can choose in the future that don’t leave everyone feeling disrespected and depleted.

Changing patterns of behavior is hard, and it can be confusing and challenging to try new things. It’s also easy to give up when something new doesn’t work out and then to come up with plenty of excuses about why it doesn’t work.

I want you to know my support is always available.

If you relate to any of this information and want to learn more about how I can help you, or if you want to schedule a free phone conversation to see if my coaching is right for your family, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Your parenting counts!


Heart of Connecting

My work is dedicated to supporting parents and early childhood educators in understanding and reducing challenging behavior in young children at home and in the preschool classroom.

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